A few months after turning fifty Monal one day chanced upon a friend called Urmila. More than ten years ago Monal had met her over a dance performance they had staged with a common friend Rehana and three high school girls.
In a typical Indian folk dance style, the young girls danced the part of the male of the couples. Those days it was a popular song from the Hindi movie “Lagaan”, “radha kaise na jaley” was their chosen number. Rehearsals are always fun and so it was then too.
The three ladies came to share more than dance practice schedules. Urmila’s life came as a shock to Monal. Her husband used to regularly beat her up and then made love too against her wishes. She was made to slog day and night and was not allowed the luxury of a maid.
She could not imagine spending any money on herself. So when it was decided that they would get dance costumes stitched it became a sticky issue for her. Urmila was always most simply dressed, intelligent but lacked courage to stand up to her husband. Spending time with Monal and Rehana was a high point in her life.
Both the ladies began to have a very tender spot for her in their hearts. Sometimes Monal painfully noticed a hunted look in Urmila’s big eyes.
Meeting Urmila again suddenly brought back a rush of memories. Urmila had grayed around the frame of her face. She had a healthy glow and her eyes struck Monal again. Now there was a flash of confidence and a sense of peace in those big bereft of kohl eyes. Her intelligence and presence of mind shone through.
The two friends found time and space to share a heart to heart. Urmila confided that she started work soon after and had some monetary independance. She now had courage to sometimes say a few things to her other half and he beat her much much less. However Urmila also added that like before her husband remained a dutiful and responsible father. She had made utter peace with her situation in a way it stopped affecting her negatively any more.She had won.
Urmila was one of those unknown heroes whose struggles, battles and victories remain with in four walls and outwardly they remain someone just another.
Short Stories by Sushmita Gupta
Pic courtesy:Artwork by Ashwin Pandya